Big dreams for furniture business

Growing a national furniture and homewares retail group isn't easy when the category is suffering. But Anton Assaad, founder of Great Dane, is optimistic about the 'artisan' end of the market. Apart from getting fired up about his iconic Scandanavian designers, one of his biggest finds, he says was working with a professional coach to improve his business.
When Anton met Domonique Bertolucci, of Success Strategies, two years ago as a result of his wife's urging, he realised that he needed to work smarter, not harder.''I drove everything myself, but as Domonique said, you can only go so far on pure energy and at some point, you need strategies and so I learned to buy strategically.'' As a result, he and his team started to systemise Great Dane's stock.' 'The question was how could you grow on vintage furniture one-offs - on a multi-store basis? How can you have a consistent stock flow.''
So we built a showroom offer in which 30% and 40% stock is the same but customised; between 30% and 40% is vintage; and 20% (of the stock) are one-offs.''Buying (furnishings) had to have set costs and I had to know my margin - and that empowered me to move the business (to the next stage).''
It all began back in 2002 when Anton risked his life's savings on buying a consignment of vintage Danish-designed furniture, sight-unseen. He then rang a long-lost cousin in Spain and asked him to fly over to Denmark and check it out. It just so happened that the cousin was thinking of a similar venture and had already shipped in furniture.''I was sitting in a grotty warehouse and in the first month, I'd written a business plan and I knew I wanted to do these products new.''I knew that this would appeal because they would be still made by the same factories as 50 years ago.
The customers tend to be well-heeled older couples who have the money to spend because the furniture isn't cheap: on average, shoppers may drop $10,000 in one visit.'' A lot of people who deal in this mid-20th Century stuff have a trader mentality; I see it as very special.''You don't buy furniture to have it for a year; it's a lifetime purchase. We really believe that and it's a testament to our business.''
Anton's wife Emma became the marketing manager two years ago and the couple have a plan which they review together annually ''and that is one of the best things I've done - it's flexible but there's goals and directions,'' Assaad added.''And it allows the staff to see where we're going in terms of investment in new stock and the gaps in the vintage market we need to fulfil - it allows us to take it to the next level of four to six shops in two to three years time.''

Assaad usually travels four times a year to Denmark to meet with the original designers and sometimes their families. If they're still alive, the designers are aged 80 and over and have to be convinced about getting their old designs back into production.''There's a certain language you have to have to deal with the Danes,'' he explained.''You have to be direct in an indirect manner; rather than saying `I need to this done'. It's more about: `I'd like to do that.'''''You need to have a cross cultural understanding; otherwise, you can end up somewhere you don't want to be. That's true for any culture.''
Recently, he tracked down yet another elderly mid-20th Century Danish designer Arne Voda, who ''wasn't a well known designer in Denmark but did some extraordinary work''. Assaad has started production of a few 'beautiful' pieces to add to his collection.''The most wonderful thing is that now we're working with him and a tiny cabinet maker and another young guy in Denmark and .. that's the most exciting thing I've done in the past 12 months.''
And it's this passion for the culture and significance of design that his clients also buy into. ''If you look back at the period of the 1950s, there were 7,000 cabinet makers in Denmark so there were many other designers who were just as good as the masters - and that's the group we look at. ''

Great Dane has stores in Melbourne, Sydney and, Brisbane and owns a local workshop. The business is quite labour intensive but sustainable. Because of the workshop, we provide a standard of restoration only done by two companies in the world. Most people are amazed by what we do and how much time is spent. That's the big part of our passion to provide the best quality. The restoration cycle is also systemised; they do certain products every six weeks it's much more efficient and productive than three years ago.

Assaad says he's had offers to take Great Dane offshore and he already exports to US, New Zealand and Asia from the website. He's trying not to panic about the state of the Aussie dollar since part of being an importer is coping with fluctuations; some of his dealings are hedged but not the rising freight prices.''Come the New Year, most businesses will restructure prices but there's no point panicking now. We have to see what will happen.''

Hook Me Up

The Dots Coat Hooks.

Made from oak and cut into soft round circles, The Dots coat hooks will treat any garment with care. Often called “the little” family, the coat hooks are a friendly addition to any wall.

The design allows you to arrange the hooks in a pattern that you prefer, and you can add and remove the dots at any time. Each set comes with three different sizes, one large, one medium and one small; and can come in different colours.

Jack n Jill Children’s Coat Hooks.

Inspired buy the iconic male and female symbols who direct us safely across the street,the Jack n Jill coat hooks are an individual and personable addition to your home, kidsrooms or office space.

Just in time for Christmas, the coat hooks are a great gift.

Made of powder coated steel and available in black, red and white; the young at heart and the young just might startpicking their clothes off the floor.

Limited Edition - Finn Juhl N45

The 45-chair was designed in 1945 and is regarded as one of the mainworks of Finn Juhl.

Finn was the first Dane to use teak for furniture production, and the 45 chair is very characteristic of the works of Finn Juhl to come because for the first time he separated the elegant frame construction from the comfortable upholstery part. This gave the furniture a lightness never seen before, which has formed a school and made Finn Juhl world-famous.

In connection with the opening of the HOME OF FINN JUHL exhibition at the museum Ordrupgaard, Great Dane has secured Australia's only Finn Juhl’s model 45. Only 100 of these exist worldwide. Available in Oxblood leather.

You must come in to see this beautiful piece.

Finn Juhl

A stunning piece. Our Finn Juhl range has finally arrived. Inspired by 'free art', Finn Juhl designed Poeten for his own home in 1941.

Today this sofa represents a part of Danish cultural history and modern furniture.

Poeten is made to the finest manufactuing standards with hand-sewn upholstery.W 87 x W 136 x H 80 cm.

Upholstery of you choice and timber for legs - maple, walnut, teak or oak.

Holmegaard Glassware

Great Dane is excited to have a selection of the new range, “Reflections of Scandinavia”, from Holmegaard in store.

The history of Holmegaard began in 1823, when Count Christian Danneskiold-Samsǿe petitioned for the permission to build a glassworks at Holmegaard Mose. The Count passed away the same year but his widow Countess Henriette Danneskiold-Samsøe pursued the project, making her the woman behind Holmegaard.

Holmegaard has now become part of a large modern design collective. During the 20th Century, renowned artists designed for Holmegaard and established a long and proud tradition until today where some of Denmark’s biggest talents are still associated with glass production at Holmegaard.

Rusakko Soft Toys

The Rusakko soft toy collection of animals are 100% natural and 100% organic. Stuffed with cotton grass from the Finnish marshes that is spun with wool then held together by cotton and linen.

Cotton grass can only be combined with the wool after it has lain for at least 500 years in the Finnish marsh, making them some of the “oldest” stuffed toys in the world.

Substances drawn from the Finnish marshes are known to have relaxation effects, and many of the ingredients are used as therapeutic aids. The Rusakko toys are extremely calming, once you hold them; you will never want to let them go.

Every animal is handmade from start to finish by Marjatta Lahtinen and her employees in a tiny factory in Finland. Marjatta Lahtinen says, “Each stuffed animal is made with love and special respect to the materials provided by nature. That is why every one of them is a unique individual.”

The range currently in store includes the reindeer, girl and boy mice, the horse and the rabbit, which can easily switch from girl rabbit to boy rabbit, with a quick change of clothes.

Great Dane New Restoration Service

The Great Dane Workshop specialises in the repair and restoration of mid-century furniture.

We are now able to offer our valued clients a restoration service for their furniture.

We repair and restore:
· wobbly chair legs
· scratches on surfaces
· water or burn marks
· sticky drawers & doors
· structural weaknesses
· upholstery

Contact us to rejuvenate your pieces.